ReedPOP finally seems to have cracked the code on getting wary Midwesterners to venture into Chicago's McCormick Place for a comics/entertainment festival. Attendance for this year's C2E2 Expo—held April 13-15—was "way up," said show runner Lance Fensterman. Although final numbers aren't in, he said, "keep in mind the size of the show floor doubled and the aisles were much more full than last year. That tells you how much attendance jumped to keep pace with the floor growth."
Indeed, Saturday's show floor was jammed with the now-familiar comic-con crowd of sketch purchasers, back issue bargain hunters, autograph seekers and colorful cosplayers. Although Friday was light, Sunday also drew a good-sized crowd. Last year C2E2 drew 34,000 fans.
Although no one doubted that bodies were there, sales were more uneven. Basically, and unsurprisingly, the well-known material did well. For instance, star artists like Jill Thompson and Amanda Conner doing well with art and sketch sales; but the further down the familiarity scale for an artist in the huge 400-person Artist's Alley, the slower the sales.
This year's strong attendance was doubtless spurred by an increased presence for media guests, including two Walking Dead cast members, former Batman Val Kilmer and local Chicago boy, actor John Cusack. Torchwood's John Barrowman also made an appearance. In a less expected role, actor Shia LaBeouf showed up with girlfriend Karolyn Pho in Artist Alley on Friday to sell his stream of consciousness indie comics as somewhat confused fans lined up purchase them and get their pictures taken with the Transformers star.
Authors Anne Rice and Charlaine Harris led the genre lit crowd, and also spoke to large crowds, with Harris revealing the title of the 13th and final Sookie Stackhouse book will be Dead Ever After.
Aside from Marvel and DC, who both featured large booths and multiple panels, the comics publisher line-up was led by Archaia, which reported brisk sales for David Petersen's Mouse Guard books and Jim Henson's A Tale of Sand by Ramon Perez. Archaia also made news by announcing a new venture with digital comics vendor Comixology to serialize comics as digital single issues. Another publisher with some presence was the new iteration of Valiant, which is just getting started with a new line of books.
Still, it was a thin turn out among comics publishers, many of whom still question whether C2E2 can draw enough fans to offset the expense of exhibiting in the very expensive McCormick Place. Most observers felt this was an encouraging turnout, but whether more publishers will return for next year's show—announced for April 26-28 at McCormick—remains to be seen.